The OECD reinforced the point that there is more variation in educational outcomes within schools than between schools.
The report also stressed the difference in educational outcomes for those pupils who are socio-economically disadvantaged.
We have been doing some research into this area in East Lothian – which is still at an early stage – but initial results would suggest that the average attainment for S4 pupils, who ARE entitled to Free School Meals, is exactly half that of the average attainment of their peers who ARE NOT entitled to Free School Meals.
I’ve always had difficulty with the idea of raising attainment of the lowest attaining 20% of pupils – as expressed in recent national priorities. The problems of identifying these children makes it an artificial distinction – lowest at what? Maths, English, PE?, art?
I’ve also had difficulty with the idea of closing the gap – as many people worry that the attainment gap might be closed by simply depressing the results of those children who have high levels levels of attainment.
However, we can identify children who are entitled to Free School Meals from their earliest years in education. At a time when we are looking to identify data to judge the effectiveness of the system – and to identify if we add value to children’s lives – I am tending towards seeing the educational outcomes for children who are entitled to Free School Meals as a key indicator, in addition to the academic attainment of Looked Afer and Accommodated Children (of course many of the latter group are also included in the former).
We will be exploring this in much greater depth with our colleagues in schools over the next few months at all levels in the system.